RWANDAN ORPHANS PROJECT (ROP)
The Rwandan Orphans Project (ROP) was started in 2006. Two members of the church were in Rwanda and while walking in the capital, Kigali, noted the desperate plight of the children living in the streets. Some of them were survivors of the 1994 genocide with no surviving family. Some were children who were living on the streets because there was not enough food at their house. When the story of these children trying to survive by begging and stealing food was told to the congregation, there was an immediate response and money was raised to find a place to provide shelter and food.
This was a beginning. Most of the children were illiterate. Therefore a remedial education program was started to enable them to attend public school. A year later, ROP became a 501 (c) 3. The warehouse where the children were being housed, was condemned and a new site had to be found. Sean Jones, the executive director, found a new location and the children were moved to a better place with a play area, room for gardens, and in a residential community of which ROP is an important part. The education program started for the children of ROP has been extended to the families in the area who can not afford to sent their children to school. Sean, whose home is in New Mexico, had planned to stay and work with ROP for up to six months. He has been there over five years. He was joined by Jenny Clover, a journalist from England four years ago as a co-director. Together they have taken ROP to another level.
ROP is one of the few NGO'S recognized by the government of Rwanda. The importance of family was recognized as the children started their new experience. Social workers and case workers found family members if there were any, and worked with them and the child to reintegrate them back with the family while the child stayed with ROP. Recently, ROP was selected by the government to help address the problem of children being forced to live in the streets because of poverty. The mothers of the street children are usually uneducated, unemployed and cannot provide for their children, so they leave home for the streets. The fathers have left, are too ill to work or are unemployed. As in most African countries, the mother is responsible for the care of the children. The mothers of the street children are given the opportunity to get an education and with assistance from the government get micro loans to allow them to start a business to become independent. While she is working to become independent, the children get their education and support from ROP.
What was started as a project to help provide a safe place for the children to stay, have meals, get some clothes and some elementary education has developed into a center for children not to just survive but to have a life and be able to follow their dreams. These amazing children who were able to live on the streets, can attend middle school, high school and college. Two have graduated from college and four are currently attending on full scholarships. Those who are not academical inclined were given the opportunity to learn a trade. Many of the them are car mechanics, bike mechanics, electricians, and many other skills.
The members of Christ Lutheran Church have continued to support ROP with their contributions and prayers. Although ROP is a 501 (c) 3, CLC was responsible for it's beginning. The modest hope to help some of the homeless children on the streets of Kigali, has evolved into a model for caring for children in a developing country.
Why help children in a small African country when there are many needy children here and just across the boarder in Mexico? The answer is: there are safety nets here and in Mexico. There is no safety net in Rwanda for them. They live and without help, die on the streets.
For more information and how you can help, visit www.rwandanorphansproject.org